The eastern white pine (Pinus strobus) isn’t really a crop-bearing tree, but it has borne priceless “fruit” for American democracy. Physically as well as culturally massive, there are many accounts from the early 1800s of white pines over 200 feet tall being harvested. One credible report pegs a white pine at 247 feet, and unverified accounts have claimed that 300-foot-tall leviathans were cut back then. It’s a long-lived species, with 400 years considered a rough maximum. Working for a tree service in the Adirondacks in the early ‘90s, I once tallied 450 rings on a storm-thrown specimen.
The white pine is the official tree of Maine and Michigan, with the current U.S. champion standing at 180 feet, 10 inches in Cook Forest State Park in Pennsylvania. Sadly, one of New York State’s tallest white pines, which I visited several times, toppled in 2021. At 160 feet, 10 inches, it was in a stand of old-growth habitat near Paul Smith’s College. In today’s second- and third-growth forests, the average mature white pine is often between 100 and 130 feet tall, with diameters of 25-35 inches.